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Legionnaires’ cluster in Washington Heights rises to 22 cases: health officials

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan — The NYC Health Department is investigating a community cluster of 22 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in a section of Lower Washington Heights in Manhattan, health officials said on Friday.

On Tuesday, health officials reported there was one fatality from the disease.

WHAT IS LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE?

Legionnaires’ disease is a treatable infection using antibiotics for pneumonia. Every year, there are between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella.

Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at highest risk for Legionnaires’ disease include people who are middle-aged or older, especially cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs). Those with symptoms should call their doctor and ask about testing for Legionnaires’ disease.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The Health Department is urging residents in the area with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches, to promptly seek medical attention. The Health Department has alerted health care providers in the area about this cluster.

TREATMENT

Legionnaires’ disease can be deadly, but is treatable with antibiotics. Most people get better with early treatment, although they may need to be hospitalized. Others have died from complications of the disease.